The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Strengthening the Linkages Between the Sciences and the Mathematical Sciences
mathematics research, including cross-disciplinary collaborations (NRC, 1990). The David II report also recommended that academic mathematical science departments give more recognition to faculty engaging in cross-disciplinary collaborations. In 1994, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics encouraged the mathematical sciences community to develop a rewards system that does not distinguish between core and applied mathematics and that values a number of activities, including teaching, outreach activities, and cross-disciplinary pursuits (AMS, 1994). Other recent reports have warned that U.S. mathematics should pay serious attention to its interactions with other disciplines in order to remain preeminent in the field (NRC, 1997; AMS, 1999). The Report of the Senior Assessment Panel of the International Assessment of the U.S. Mathematical Sciences (NSF, 1998) bases its evaluations in part on the rate at which new mathematics is utilized by other disciplines. The report argues that by retreating from multidisciplinary involvement, mathematics misses opportunities to be enriched by the ideas and challenges of other disciplines. The other disciplines suffer from a loss of expertise and easy access to the vast knowledge base being developed by the mathematical sciences and from the overly specialized mathematical languages and tools that inhibit communication with other disciplines. According to this report, “strengthening the connections between the creators and the users of mathematics, while maintaining historical proficiency in pure mathematics, is the most important opportunity now open for the National Science Foundation in support of that field.”
Reports from the scientific community likewise acknowledge the benefits of research at the interface between science and mathematical sciences and of providing students, postdoctoral fellows, and other researchers with more training in the mathematical sciences. For example, a growing interest in math-related research and training is evident from reports and program initiatives coming from the life sciences and biomedical research community. The David II report, mentioned above (NRC, 1990), suggested ways of better reviewing and otherwise promoting collaborations between life and medical scientists, on the one hand, and physical scientists (including mathematical sciences) and engineers, on the other. In 1992 and 1996, the National Science Foundation published reports detailing the historical relationship between mathematical sciences and biology and suggesting areas of emerging opportunity at the math-biology interface (NSF, 1992 and 1996). More recently, four foundations supportive of biomedical research convened a workshop to discuss the impact of market forces on health care research in the United States and the ways in which private foundations could best “meet the challenging needs of research and advance in the field” (American Cancer Society, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, 1998). The resulting report lists seven emerging themes identified at the workshop. One of these acknowledges the potentially high payoff associated with crosscutting research in biology and the mathematical sciences. Expressing concern about the financial crises faced by academic health centers (AHCs), the report claims that general support of multidisciplinary research can be critical to the long-term success of an AHC program because it facilitates breakthrough research; maximizes the attractiveness of an institution to graduate students, postdoctoral trainees, and outstanding faculty; brings the research community together; and increases the likelihood of facilitating linkages with the commercial sector. Other disciplines have similarly expressed the need to promote research linkages with the mathematical sciences community.
Appendix C briefly describes these and other studies that considered how to establish better research linkages as well as some actions taken to remedy the situation. The chronology